Serena Williams nearly lost her life giving birth to daughter Olympia last fall, but in the wake of her near-death experience, the tennis champion is using her platform for the greater good.
“Around the world, thousands of women struggle to give birth in the poorest countries. When they have complications like mine, there are often no drugs, health facilities or doctors to save them,” Williams, 36, detailed Tuesday in an op-ed for CNN. “Before they even bring a new life into this world, the cards are already stacked against them.”
Williams, who welcomed her first child with husband Alexis Ohanian, 34, in September, recalled the traumatic birth, which resulted in an emergency C-section after Olympia’s heart rate dropped during contractions.
“It began with a pulmonary embolism, which is a condition in which one or more arteries in the lungs becomes blocked by a blood clot. Because of my medical history with this problem, I live in fear of this situation. So, when I fell short of breath, I didn’t wait a second to alert the nurses,” Williams recounted. “This sparked a slew of health complications that I am lucky to have survived.”
After spending the first six weeks of motherhood in bed, Williams is back on her feet and sharing her baby’s first moments with the masses. But as she explained, not every parent experiences a similar joy after childbirth.
“Here’s the reality of one woman, as documented by UNICEF. In Malawi, Mary James walked hours to reach the closest health center while she was in labor. Exhausted, she made it to the facility and gave birth, only to lose her child later that day,” Williams shared. “That same day, approximately 2,600 babies died on their first day of life.”
Williams also noted 2.6 million newborns die each year, over 80 percent from preventable causes. The new mom later urged the time to act is now.
“Across the globe, organizations like UNICEF are committed to delivering simple solutions on behalf of every mother and newborn,” Williams explained. “These solutions include recruiting and training more doctors and midwives, guaranteeing clean and functional health facilities, making the top 10 lifesaving drugs and equipment available, and most importantly, empowering adolescent girls to demand quality care.”
She continued, “You can demand governments, businesses and healthcare providers do more to save these precious lives. You can donate to UNICEF and other organizations around the world working to make a difference for mothers and babies in need.”
This isn’t the first time Williams has opened up about her dramatic labor, as she previously described the experience in the February edition of Vogue.
“We’re not spending a day apart until she’s 18,” she told the magazine.